- (Photo: REUTERS/FBI/Handout via Reuters)
A $2 million reward was offered on Thursday for information leading to the arrest of the first woman ever to make the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "Most Wanted Terrorist" list.
According to a release from the FBI, Joanne Deborah Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, is wanted for the cold-blooded murder of a New Jersey State Trooper 40 years ago. She is also only the second domestic terrorist to make the list.
The reward was announced by officials from the FBI and the New Jersey State Police who highlighted that the $2 million is a collective purse with equal payments coming from the Bureau and the state of New Jersey.
"Joanne Chesimard is a domestic terrorist who murdered a law enforcement officer execution-style," explained Aaron Ford, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark Division.
"Today, on the anniversary of Trooper Werner Foerster's death, we want the public to know that we will not rest until this fugitive is brought to justice," he said.
Mike Rinaldi, a lieutenant in the New Jersey State Police and member of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark said although the case is 40 years old, bringing Chesimard to justice is still a priority.
"This case is just as important today as it was when it happened 40 years ago," said Rinaldi. "Bringing Joanne Chesimard back here to face justice is still a top priority."
According to the FBI's report, on May 2, 1973, Chesimard and two accomplices were stopped by two troopers for a motor vehicle violation on the New Jersey Turnpike.
A member of the notorious Black Liberation Army at the time of the stop, Chesimard was wanted for her involvement in several felonies, including bank robbery. Chesimard and her accomplices shot at the troopers and wounded one of the officers. The other officer, Foerster, was fatally shot at point-blank range. One of Chesimard's accomplices was killed while the other was arrested and remains in jail. Chesimard escaped but was later arrested.
She was found guilty of first-degree murder, armed robbery, and other crimes and was sentenced to life in prison in 1977. Less than two years later, however, Chesimard escaped prison and lived underground before resurfacing in Cuba in 1984.
"This crime was always considered an act of domestic terrorism," said Rinaldi, who has been working on the case for six years with other members of the JTTF.
He explained that during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Black Liberation Army was a "radical left wing terror group that felt justified killing law enforcement officers. Chesimard's prison break, he said, was well planned and executed.
"Armed domestic terrorists gained entry into the facility, neutralized the guards, broke her free, and turned her over to a nearby getaway team," said Rinaldi. Even though Cuba has granted Chesimard asylum, added Rinaldi, "this is an active investigation and will continue as such until Chesimard is apprehended."